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Enfield prison rededicated to helping offenders succeed in society

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Enfield — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy spoke at a ceremony Tuesday morning to rededicate a portion of the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution as a re-entry facility.

Visitors then toured a dormitory where 110 men in tan prison uniforms sat with counselors and engaged in the work of becoming better parents, employees and citizens.

The low-security prison, situated with five other correctional facilities in the rolling hills of northern Connecticut, will eventually house 600 men who will receive intensive services in the months before they are released to the community.

The Department of Correction is transforming the Cybulski building into a re-integration center as part of Malloy's "Second Chance Society" initiative to help offenders become productive members of the community.

"We lost our way," Malloy said, noting that from 1985 to 2008, the state's prison population tripled. The state became engaged in building prisons and permanently punishing offenders, he said, and the result was counterproductive.

"You can't live in our housing," he said. "You can't get a good job. You can't even qualify for a student loan. It was as if we would cut off our nose to spite our face."

The state's prison population, currently at about 16,000 inmates, has shrunk in recent years along with the crime rate, and the administration is aiming to reduce the number of prisoners further by eliminating mandatory minimum prison sentences for some drug offenses and reducing recidivism by helping offenders change their lives.

"We can do better by those who have done us wrong but want to do better," Malloy said.

Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple said prison officials went to Ohio last year to learn about that state's successful re-integration programs. The new initiative will rely on partnerships with schools, churches, community and health care providers.

"Please note this is not a soft on crime approach," Semple said. "This is a smart on re-entry approach."

Representatives of nearby Asuntuck Community College and other organizations with which the prisons are forming new partnerships attended the ceremony along with Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, lawmakers and prison administrators.

Pat Kupec, deputy warden for programs and treatment for the correction department, said the biggest challenges facing offenders being released to the community is finding employment and housing.

"It's hard to stay out if you don't have any money, if you don't have a place to live," Kupec said.

Willard-Cybulski Warden John Tarascio said the goal is to help offenders learn to do the things that most citizens do — to get up every morning, go to work or school, to be good fathers and partners, stay clean and sober and help those who are struggling.

The offenders came up with their own acronym, E.N.O.U.G.H., to describe the unit's philosophy: Embracing New Opportunities and Upholding Good Habits.

k.florin@theday.com

Twitter: @KFLORIN

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